Proposed Revisions to Crane Operator Rule End Capacity Testing, Redefine Qualification

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By Bruce Rolfsen

March 3 — Construction crane groups and other industry organizations seeking changes to OSHA's requirements for crane operators have won an apparent victory—a draft proposed rule that no longer includes a mandate for certification to be based on a crane's lifting capacity and that doesn't equate “qualification” with “certification.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration released a draft of the revised rule (RIN 1218-AC96) on Feb. 27.

The draft, as well as an overview of the possible changes and a summary of OSHA's findings from site visits and talks with crane industry members, were issued in advance of a March 31-April 1 meeting of OSHA's Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health to consider the rule revisions.

If the changes are incorporated into a final rule, the proposed effective date would be Nov. 10, 2017, the draft said.

Since 2013, crane rental companies, construction companies, insurance providers and union crane operators have called for OSHA to make changes to the crane standard's certification and qualification provisions in 29 C.F.R. 1926.1427.

The standard has been in place since Nov. 8, 2010, and the effective date for certification and qualification requirements was originally Nov. 10, 2014. After crane industry officials raised objections, the certification deadline was pushed back to Nov. 10, 2017.

Industry Supports Proposal 

In 2014, crane industry groups urging OSHA to change the rule organized themselves as the Coalition for Crane Operator Safety. Regarding the draft rule, “the CCOS views this a positive development,” coalition spokesman Craig Brightup told Bloomberg BNA March 4.

One concern is how in-depth an employer's annual re-evaluation of operators needs to be, Brightup said. Does OSHA expect the annual re-evaluation to be as detailed as the initial evaluation of a new operator, he asked, or can the annual review be an abridged evaluation?

Graham Brent, executive director of the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators, one of the organizations able to grant certification, told Bloomberg BNA March 4 that the group was pleased that OSHA had proposed removing the capacity requirement and no longer linking certification to qualification.

Capacity Out, Software In 

The proposed changes drop the requirement that certification by accredited testing organizations be based on lifting capacity. The rule would require employers to recertify an operator every time the employee moves up to a larger crane.

In dealing with whether certification is the same as qualification, the proposed draft deletes the current standard's references to operator qualification being synonymous with certification.

Brightup said members of the industry coalition believe the revisions will return the responsibility for determining whether an operator is qualified to the employer, instead of depending on the certification of third-party evaluator.

However, the proposed language adds references to specific operator qualification requirements, such as understanding software used in crane operation, that aren't in the current rule.

The proposed changes state, “The employer must ensure that each operator is evaluated with respect to each equipment that the operator will use by an individual who has the knowledge, training, and experience necessary to assess equipment operators.”

The proposed changes go on to say the employer must ensure that the operator candidate:

• has the skills necessary to operate the equipment safely, including those specific to the equipment’s operational aids and software, the size and configuration of the equipment, including lifting capacity, boom length, luffing jib and counterweight set-up;

• has the knowledge and judgment to make sound determinations regarding equipment operations;

• can apply the equipment’s load charts and the manufacturer’s procedures;

• can perform the type of hoisting activities required for assigned work, including blind lifts, personnel hoisting and multi-crane lifts; and

• has demonstrated competency in signaling, set-up, assembly/disassembly, driving, inspection, maintenance, operational aids and shutdown.


To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jim Stimson at

The draft proposed rule is available at

A summary of the proposed changes is available at

A summary of OSHA site visits and talks is available at